The Witness Stones Dedication in Essex, Connecticut
They also honored Sawney Freeman, a Black musician who, after gaining his freedom, moved to Essex, where he lived with his family. During the ceremony, a quartet (three strings and a flute) performed 13 pieces composed by Freeman. The sheet music had been discovered in an archive at Trinity College by members of the coalition. St. John’s Episcopal Church in Essex invited their musical director, Anthony Pandolfe, to adapt the music for the quartet, who played selected pieces throughout the ceremony. Some of the titles included: Liberty March, Solemnity, Adam’s March, The Rays of Liberty, Washington’s Farewell, Pleasures of Solitude, Mount Vernon, and The Union of All Parties.
During the program, Stacie Paudelli, a church member, presented research about Sawney Freeman. Among her findings were:
- Details about his enslavement and emancipation in Lyme
- His early life as a free man, first in East Haddam and then Saybrook (now Essex)
- An IOU signed by two Lyme residents, with Sawney Freeman being promised payment
- Records of his family’s life in Essex, including receipts for shoes and payment for work
- A notice for the sale of a book of Sawney Freeman music at Isac Beers and Co., a New Haven
- An image of his sheet music, presumably in Sawney Freeman’s own hand
- An excerpt from William Chauncey Fowler’s History of Durham, describing the ebullient
dancing when the well-known musician Sawney Freeman played the fiddle and foot organ at
a celebration for Caesar, Durham’s “slave King”
- Sawney’s burial, with his wife, Clarissa, and son, James, in Riverview Cemetery in Essex
Witness Stone to Share Story of Enslaved Woman Baptized at Connecticut Church
By David Paulsen in the Episcopal News Service on October 13, 2022
An Episcopal church in Connecticut on Oct. 29 will dedicate its first “witness stone,” a small memorial to an enslaved woman who was baptized at the church, as part of a regional nonprofit’s efforts to share the stories of enslaved people in the places they once lived and worshipped.
St. John’s Episcopal Church in Essex will memorialize the woman, Violet, with a stone marker to be placed in a prominent spot in the meditation garden in front of the church. Through its research, supported by the Witness Stones Project, the congregation determined Violet was born in 1775, was enslaved by St. John’s member Noah Scovell and became a baptized member of the church before escaping in 1802. Continue reading.
Witness Stones Project to Partner with Regional School District 4
The Witness Stones Project, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to restore the history and honor the humanity of the enslaved individuals who helped build our communities, today announced a new affiliation with Regional School District 4. The district will be using the Project’s curriculum and landscape markers to expand their teaching of the history of slavery in colonial Connecticut.
Students will examine primary source documents, such property, church, and vital records; wills and probate inventories; and census data, in order to understand the reality of slavery and to restore the memory of those individuals who were enslaved. They will learn how to document and describe the dehumanization and paternalism of slavery; the economic and legal framework that supported slavery; and, the agency, resistance, and contributions of the enslaved to our local and national history. Finally, these students will be inviting their communities to witness as they install memorial stones for individuals who were enslaved in their towns.
The mission of the Chester, Deep River, and Essex Region 4 Schools is to engage all students in a rigorous and collaborative educational program. They prepare our learners to be respectful citizens who are empowered to contribute in a globalized society.
The Connecticut River Museum’s mission is to lead in the study, preservation and celebration of the cultural and natural heritage of the Connecticut River and its valley. By deepening understanding of the River’s importance to past generations, the Museum will inspire the stewardship of future generations.
The Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut is home to about 60,000 people in over 150 parishes and worshiping communities in the state of Connecticut.